All care home residents to be vaccinated by end of the month, Johnson says
Boris Johnson has commited to a review of the supply chain that led to families on free school meals receiving meagre hampers which did not meet the government’s guidlines nor reflect the amount of money allocated for their provision.
The prime minister assured footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford a review would take place and said he was commited to correcting the issue in a phone call ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions, where he will face off against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Earlier, the bosses of leading UK supermarkets wrote to Michael Gove warning food shortages in Northern Ireland will get worse as the current system becomes “unworkable” when a three-month “grace period” — allowing shops to phase in new customs checks — comes to an end.
Boris Johnson ‘commits to review’ of free school meal parcels in Marcus Rashford phone call
Anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford has spoken to Boris Johnson about his concerns over the standard of free school meal food parcels, and said the PM promised a “full review” of the supply chain.
The phone call came as education secretary Gavin Williamson promised to “name and shame” any food suppliers providing sub-standard packages to children in England entitled to free school meals during the current lockdown.
Our Political Editor Andrew Woodcock is following the situation as it develops:
Liam James13 January 2021 11:49
Rashford praised for being on the ball over free school meals
Marcus Rashford has been praised for his work to ensure the provision of free school meals improves. Yesterday (before assisting his teammate Paul Pogba in taking Manchester United to the top of the Premier League table) he spoke with meal providers Chartwells to find out how so many families had received such meagre portions.
This morning, he gained assurance from Boris Johnson that the situation would be corrected.
Liam James13 January 2021 11:29
Did Williamson just lie?
A few political journalists have suggested Gavin Williamson either slipped up or spoke falsely when responding to a question on his threat of legal action against Greenwich Council to keep schools open before Christmas.
He said the decision was taken without knowledge of the new variant, but the dates do not appear to add up. The threat against Greenwich was made on 14 December, by which time the new variant had been detected. Matt Hancock told the House of Commons the variant had been detected on the same day.
Liam James13 January 2021 11:14
A-level and GCSE students set to face tests along with teacher assessments this summer
A-level, AS-level and GCSE students in England look set to be required to take externally-set tests as part of their assessment this summer, despite the cancellation of formal exams due to coronavirus, our Political Editor Andrew Woodcock reports.
The move suggests that education secretary Gavin Williamson is backing away from earlier indications that grades would be based on teacher assessment only.
In a letter to exams regulator Ofqual, Mr Williamson confirmed that there would be no repeat of the use of algorithms to determine grades, following the chaos last year when many students were awarded marks regarded as unfair.
Liam James13 January 2021 10:55
School workers ‘top priority’ for vaccine
Asked about the decision to prioritise vaccinating school staff, Mr Williamson said he will “make no apology” and defended the decision.
“It is quite understandably right that the government has chosen to prioritise those that are most at risk of being hospitalised [for vaccination].
“But … in that next wave where we have to prioritise others, I will make no apology for the fact that I see the top priority as all those who work in schools.
“Not just teachers but all those that work in schools because every single one of them is absolutely vital for delivering education.”
Liam James13 January 2021 10:45
‘Are you looking at student mental health?’
Mr Halfon turned to ask whether the Department for Education was looking into the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health. Then, citing evidence from the Royal College of Paediatrics that found a 400 per cent rise in eating disorders amongst young people, he asked what the government was doing to ensure “adequate” access to mental health serivces.
Mr Williamson said he asked the minister for children to look at “some of the real issues children are having to deal with” and pointed to the Wellbeing for Education Return programme, which he says is training teaching staff to deal with mental health issues.
He did not say whether children would be able to have access to a mental health counsellor at school when asked specifically by Mr Halfon.
Liam James13 January 2021 10:39
‘Are nurseries safe?’
Mr Halfon asked the education secretary if he could confirm that nurseries will remain open, and that they are safe for children and staff.
Bit of a stumble from Mr Williamson before replying “I always want to see all education settings open all the time.
“As you will be aware that transmissibility anmong those who are most youngest is actually the very lowest, so when you’re in a position to keep part of the education sector open … I believe it was the right decision to make as so many families rely on that nursery provision.”
When pressed, he replied that there was “no intention” to close nurseries, though suggested the government was relying on advice for the decision.
Liam James13 January 2021 10:25
Action will be taken if standards not met, says Williamson
“When I saw that picture I was absolutely disgusted,” comes the reply from Mr Williamson.
“There are clear standards they have to deliver against. If they do not deliver against them, action will be taken.”
He went on to say Chartwells, the provider of many free school meals, apologised for the scanty food parcels and agreed they were unacceptable.
Liam James13 January 2021 10:18
Williamson faces questions from MPs
Ailing education secretary Gavin Williamson is currently facing questions from MPs.
First up is Robert Halfon, the education commitee chair, with a question off the back of the controversy over free school meals: “Can you make sure schools who do [deals with private providers] are not ripped off? … And families get the nutritious food the government guidelines suggest?”
Liam James13 January 2021 10:15
NHS considering plans to send patients to hotels amid Covid pressure, Matt Hancock says
Matt Hancock has said the NHS is considering plans to move some patients into hotels in order to ease intense pressure on hospitals, as he stressed it was “impossible to know” the exact date lockdown restrictions would be eased, our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports.
The health secretary insisted the government will “look at all contingencies” as hospitals across England treat 35,000 coronavirus patients and the chief medical officer warned the coming weeks will be the “worst” for the health service during the pandemic.
Mr Hancock added that the Nightingale hospital in London was also receiving patients for the first time since April and that sending some patients to hotels was a “further back-up plan”.
Read the full report here:
Liam James13 January 2021 09:53